Meet the Head: Matthew King of Pennthorpe School

Tempted by journalism, Matthew King, head of Pennthorpe School, Rudgwick, near Horsham, followed a far nobler calling and went into teaching

If you hadn’t become a teacher, what would you have done instead?I had two very clear career paths mapped out when I left school and I trialled both in my gap year. I worked as a journalist on two Crawley newspapers and as a teacher at a small school called (wait for it) Pennthorpe. Working on a sports desk at the age of 18 was certainly exciting, but when I was thrown in the deep end at a Prep School with Year 5 Latin, Colts Cricket and ICT teaching, I soon learned where my real passion lay.

Was there any type of school dinner that you couldn’t stand?I think I got through school meals relatively unscathed which is probably why I’ll eat pretty much anything! I do recall one embarrassing occasion when I forced myself to eat more than 43 Brussels sprouts to prove a point to a teacher who had asked me to eat three.  It looked a ridiculously self-defeating thing to do at the time but, in retrospect, I think I probably enjoyed that meal as much as the rest!

What were your favourite lessons at school?I loved to write and, at Prep School, English was my first love. It broke my heart growing up when English lessons gradually became more about reading instruction manuals and menus than being properly creative. It still amazes me that you can take English right the way through senior school without ever having to tap your imagination and mould a proper story. There is a lack of spark and creativity in mainstream education today and, until we lose our obsession with league tables and constant testing, we will never get it back.

So, your Desert Island Disc…?I’d have to take ELO’s Mr Blue Sky to remind me of glorious sunny Sundays driving around the Sussex countryside in search of breakfast or a good walk, with my three children variously dancing, bellowing or squealing in the back.

What is your favourite film?My wife and I used to adore Jerry Maguire, so much so that it was the only thing we could think to put on to distract attention from the endless hours of labour that preceded the birth of our first child. Now we both cry when we watch it, but for completely different reasons!

How do you like to relax?As I approach my fortieth year it’s hardly relaxing, but I still live for my weekend football. I play for the local village here in Rudgwick and was probably best described in a recent cup final programme as the “clumsy target man who causes havoc in the box. Usually when he comes back for corners”.  I don’t score as many goals as I used to, but then I am often the oldest player on the field by a good ten years.

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If you were Prime Minister for one day, what’s the first thing you would do?I’d place a ban on the sale of school playing fields. Nothing better symbolises what’s gone wrong in our education system, and perhaps even in our society, than this. Too many young people today feel alienated by their school experience because they can’t relate it to it on any level.  It’s the responsibility of the educator to inspire pupils to want to learn and we shouldn’t just expect it to happen. That means showing young people that a good education is broad and balanced, and includes sport, music, drama, art and technology. It’s too easy to talk down to children and tell them how they ought to learn. Good schools recognise the things that switch pupils on and find ways to bring those things into the classroom. The best education has to be an all round education and it should always be fun.

Pennthorpe SchoolChurch StreetRudgwickWest SussexRH12 3HJ01403

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